Idolatry on the Church Bulletin; do you walk out?

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a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
We have tried to attend two Presbyterian churches that didn't have correct address information on their websites. In the actual human running of churches, lots of inefficient things seem to happen. I would suspect they happen more in the area of violations of this nature the more diverse a church is in the way it is growing (with people who have not previously been reformed), or the more recently the church as a whole has become reformed?

I was just reading 1 Corinthians 1 and how Paul gives thanks for these believers sanctified in Christ, called to be saints together 'with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.' I had to remind myself that he was speaking of a church he then goes on to deal with in the areas of division, sexual immorality, chaos, drunkenness at the Lord's table, and so on. So it seems reasonable if happening to walk into an assembly of believers calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who happen to have a bulletin sporting idolatry upon the cover to shove it out of sight and give thanks for them. Perhaps any addressing I nerved myself up to of such an issue would be better received in light of that thanksgiving. I'm not sure how thankful it is to walk out on calling on the Lord Jesus Christ together with them, anymore. (At one time it would have seemed to me like the only proper course, but since that time, I've come to have much more wonder over how anyone could give thanks for me.)
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
As someone who has produced church bulletins for a variety of churches over the years, I can answer that, no, the bulletin is usually not reviewed in its entirety before it goes out, especially in the day of electronic communication. The internal part of the bulletin may be copied and pasted for the pastor (or someone) to double-check in an email (if the pastor is trying to be meticulous and careful), but I can easily envision a scenario in which some sweet old lady wanted to 'surprise' everyone with a 'special bulletin', and it went by unnoticed because nobody thought about the possibility that the external part of the bulletin would be changed. Most pastors are far too busy to review absolutely every detail of every ministry every week, and sometimes things just get by them.

Members of the OPC (and probably also the PCA) are not required to subscribe to the Confession. Pastors, elders, and deacons are, but ordinary members are only required to make a credible profession of faith. One would think that faithful preaching would result in more awareness, but I am sure every pastor can give stories of frustration about people failing to grasp apparent basics even after hearing them again and again. A church that I know is very orthodox in its leadership and yet has a huge picture of Jesus at the front of their sanctuary. The problem--it came with the building. The pastors and elders assumed it would be removed promptly. But they are not trustees, and they cannot force the church to do that. They have been consistently outvoted by members, who despite hearing preaching on the subject again and again, get the heebie-jeebies about taking down a picture of Jesus and feel that it is disrespectful to remove 'Jesus' from the window.

In a perfect world, everyone would listen to the preaching and be persuaded by it. In the real world, there are a lot of confused people in churches. And the Presbyterian system simply does not give ultimate authority to the Session. One can argue that in such cases (picture of Jesus in the sanctuary), the Session should do this or that, and to be honest, in THAT case, I'd be unlikely to attend that particular church, but it is a complicated situation, not a simple one, and the battle is likely to be a long one, especially since people OPPOSED to the picture of Jesus tend to leave the church rather than vote the picture out.

But a bulletin picture... that could easily just be a one-week case of someone getting too busy with counseling issues and the VBS program to take a good look at the front of the bulletin. I'd be hesitant to assume it was anything more than that unless I knew for sure. Congregants (myself included) can be dense, and pastors can be busy, and sometimes odd things happen.
I didn't say that members had to subscribe to the Confession what i said was, " I do believe one should be a member of the church before they are allowed to function in any type of ongoing service to the church such as a secretary" and if they took a membership class like the kind that was offered to me (the pastor being faithful to the word and the ppl taking the membership class being given the opportunity to ask questions...I asked tons of questions....) then the class alone would teach them about the Commandments. Thus the secretary who should be a member of the church (sweet old lady or young sweet lady) would know about the 2nd Commandment and wouldn't put that on the bullitin. Do these same ppl who don't understand the 2nd Commandment also have a hard time understanding the rest of the Commandments? Do they steal bc they don't understand that Commandment? (I know you have no idea whether or not ppl in that particular church understand or don't understand the Commandments and that you were just saying that sometimes ppl don't understand what's preached) The Commandments, with maybe the except of the 4th Commandment, are not hard to grasp. And whether or not someone holds to the confessions is irrelevant. God commands that we abide by his law and every member of a reformed church (the PCA claims to be reformed) should understand the Commandments (sweet old lady or not). I'm not trying to be hardnosed, but I just don't see an excuse for breaking any of the Commandments just to "surprise the congragation to a special bullitin". You said that mistakes can happen expcially with the electronic age, and then you said you could see a sweet old lady wanting to made a special bullitin for that service. Those two things don't go hand in hand usually. Sweet old ladies rarely know how to use the electronic devices we now have today and if they can understand tham.....then they certainly can understand the 2nd Commandment. ;)
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
Yes, Heidi, I definitely agree that human inefficiency is a contributing factor to a lot of issues. I think sometimes people attribute motives where none really exist. I have found myself sometimes saying in explanation to people, "I'm not clever enough to be that evil," meaning that sometimes things are just stupid mistakes, not evil intentions.

Sarah, I love the fact that you clearly do learn so quickly. I'm afraid most of the rest of us took some time about it. Personally, despite a 26-week membership course and excellent teaching, I understood 'church discipline' to mean that the Session might call down the power of God and strike me dead, and I remained under that impression for several years. Sometimes people are stupid, what can I say. The pastor had to actually explain that he had no supernatural power to kill me, and that most people actually survived church discipline, at least in the physical sense--and also, that one usually isn't disciplined for minor infractions. I don't think he had ever found it necessary to explained that to anyone before. And this all after a very lengthy discussion of the meaning and use of church discipline in the membership class. I just interpreted everything he said in the membership class within my own context and didn't really understand it as well as I thought I did. It took me years to truly comprehend the real disposition of Presbyterian churches.

This is not to say that I think violations of the second commandment are ALWAYS a simple error made on the secretarial level or the result of someone failing to learn properly. Just that it MIGHT be, and I think charity requires that we assume the best scenario until the worst is confirmed.
 

newcreature

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't think I would walk out. I would be interested in taking notes during the service to see what other violations I could find. I would then seek to speak to the pastor or one of the elders after service to find out why this sin is going on. As some have pointed out, maybe the bulletin was an oversight. At any rate, they need to be charitably made aware of this. Perhaps the Lord is using us to minister at that time, and walking out might not serve that purpose.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Yes, Heidi, I definitely agree that human inefficiency is a contributing factor to a lot of issues. I think sometimes people attribute motives where none really exist. I have found myself sometimes saying in explanation to people, "I'm not clever enough to be that evil," meaning that sometimes things are just stupid mistakes, not evil intentions.

Sarah, I love the fact that you clearly do learn so quickly. I'm afraid most of the rest of us took some time about it. Personally, despite a 26-week membership course and excellent teaching, I understood 'church discipline' to mean that the Session might call down the power of God and strike me dead, and I remained under that impression for several years. Sometimes people are stupid, what can I say. The pastor had to actually explain that he had no supernatural power to kill me, and that most people actually survived church discipline, at least in the physical sense--and also, that one usually isn't disciplined for minor infractions. I don't think he had ever found it necessary to explained that to anyone before. And this all after a very lengthy discussion of the meaning and use of church discipline in the membership class. I just interpreted everything he said in the membership class within my own context and didn't really understand it as well as I thought I did. It took me years to truly comprehend the real disposition of Presbyterian churches.

This is not to say that I think violations of the second commandment are ALWAYS a simple error made on the secretarial level or the result of someone failing to learn properly. Just that it MIGHT be, and I think charity requires that we assume the best scenario until the worst is confirmed.
I'm not calling anyone stupid and myself wise beyond all others (my first comment didn't lay blame on "bad learners" but questioned whether they were being taught by a good teacher and then my second comment veered from the intension of my first comment bc I was trying to address your notion that the secretary might not understand the 2nd Commandment). So I was going off your notion that someone didn't understand the 2nd Commandment....something I don't share with you, and that is why I was saying all I was saying. I was trying to show how it would be really hard to use that excuse on their behalf. Maybe I should have stated that I didn't share your "possible excuse" on her behalf in my second comment to you and also stated why it would be hard to swallow instead of going about it the way i did. I apologize that I sounded uppity. So going with your notion that maybe the secretary doesn't understand the 2nd.... I do happen to believe that when a pastor says, "Pictures of Jesus is a violation of the 2nd Commandment" that ppl understand that. Even children understand that. So if the sweet old lady put it on the bulletin it can only mean she isn't being taught correctly.

I just believe that when it comes to worship the RPW should be used. Aaron's sons thought they could do things a wee bit different when they offered up a different kind of incense to God and they didn't have a good outcome. I don't believe God has lightened up on how we can worship him in church. I must say that if i went to someone's house from church and saw a "Jesus" pic it wouldn't bother me as much as seeing it in church. The grace and charity of which you speak would definitely be in order along with some conversation about the 2nd Commandment. We all break the Commandments but special care should be taken when entering his house of worship. So if that meant that the pastor told the ppl handing out the bulletins to rips off the front cover as they handed them out (this would hopefully only take out the schedule of the worship and not all the Scripture and Confession of Sin that we repeat), then that would be only a slight inconvenience to the congregation but a show of obedience to God. I hope this clears up what i was trying to say and clears up my uppity sounding comments.
 

jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
I would ignore it for the moment, maybe scratch it out if in the bulletin or try to look away the photo. I try to think about the Puritans during the Elizabethan settlement through the act of start of the Civil warwho most did worship in churches with images in trying to reform the church from within and yet preached against them (see Watson's exposition on the 10 commandments). I would not want to violate the 5th commandment of profaning the Lord's Day by refusing to meet with the Lord's people. A minister is a minister and even if he takes exception, I would maybe introduce myself after the service and write a nice humble letter letting him know I was offended, but try my best to enjoy the fellowship with the bretheren and making new friends with my fellow Christians.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
I'd shake my head and wonder why a guy as braindead as I am knows better than this, while folks who are probably far smarter and spiritually mature than I am don't. It's a wonderment to me, but I see a lot of that sort of thing, so I have to assume the Lord parcels out pieces of understanding variously among His people for His own good reasons. It'd bug me, I'm sure, but I'd stay to worship - with a red flag raised in my mind that would cause me to look very closely at everything else to determine if I should come again.
 

Unoriginalname

Puritan Board Junior
I don't think I would walk out. I would be interested in taking notes during the service to see what other violations I could find.
I would be very tempted to do this so I may just leave so that I do not stew in cynicism and self righteousness. By no means am I saying that is what you would do. I would probably also write a letter instead of talk to a pastor because I am someone who could be described as uncomfortable in my own skin, so the thought of confronting an elder face to face on a theological issue makes me very uncomfortable.
 

Unoriginalname

Puritan Board Junior
I don't think I would walk out. I would be interested in taking notes during the service to see what other violations I could find.
I would be very tempted to do this so I may just leave so that I do not stew in cynicism and self righteousness. By no means am I saying that is what you would do. I would probably also write a letter instead of talk to a pastor because I am someone who could be described as uncomfortable in my own skin, so the thought of confronting an elder face to face on a theological issue makes me very uncomfortable.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I suppose if one were to stay or go, one would ask the person in charge of the bulletin handout: this is a PCA church, right? Right. So, I suppose you know the larger catechism which the PCA confesses says that it is a sin to image Jesus? Right? Uh.... Then give them your phone number and ask one of the elders to follow up; indicate this is offensive, etc.

I would still probably walk out. Chalk it up to lack of due diligence ahead of time.

I honestly don't expect such gross things; I suppose now I should add that to the list of things to ask about if I travel (I really have not been out much the last 12 years). Or simply by default look for OPC, RPCNA, micro alternatives.... One tires of the rubbish going on in the PCA.

Okay; I will ask myself to close this thread now. Thanks all for your input.
 
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